How do I deal with temptation if my spouse is a sexual refuser?

Jay Dee

How do I deal with temptation if my spouse is a sexual refuser?

Dec 10, 2015

Another question from our Have A Question page.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any idea what post he read just before asking, but still, I think we can try to answer the question without that.  Here we go: I agree with you completely on all points. 

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Anonymous QuestionAnother question from our Have A Question page.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any idea what post he read just before asking, but still, I think we can try to answer the question without that.  Here we go:

I agree with you completely on all points.  However I have fallen into the traps set by having a sexless marriage.  After our second child my wife lost all sex drive.  For 10 years sex has been almost non existant.  Mayby 6 – 12 times a year.  I fell into porn, got caught, but have still struggled with masturbation.  I have gone without for months at times but always break down. I have talked with my wife but what else am I missing.  Isnt it also a sin to keep your spouse from fulfilling his needs?  What are men in this situation to do?

Now, I’m not sure what points he agrees with me on.  I doubt it’s every point on the website.  The only one I’ve met that agrees with everything I say is my wife, and that’s only because we tend to discuss and study these things together.  Nevertheless, the core set of questions survive without that context.

Isn’t it also a sin to keep your spouse from fulfilling his needs?

I think what he meant to ask was “Isn’t it a sin for a spouse to refrain from fulfilling the needs of their spouse”, and the answer to that is yes.  If you are refusing to have sex with your spouse, then technically you are sinning:

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. – 1 Corinthians 7:5

Now, this gives spouses a huge responsibility, of helping their spouse avoid temptation of sexual immorality.  I don’t think many realize just how important a task that is.  After all, if frequent sex is one of the major defenses against sexual sin, then we should approach it with the same sense of importance that we place on brushing our teeth, as it is a major defense against cavities.  And really, isn’t our spouse’s spiritual walk with God, and their fidelity to us far more meaningful than our teeth?  Yet not many would dare skip a day of having their teeth brushed, while many skip entire months defending their spouse against the enemy of temptation.

For those who don’t see it as a big issue, or think their role is not that important, I want to point out this verse:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. – Matthew 18:6

We have quite a few warnings in the Bible not to be a stumbling block to others, and a refusal to follow through with your vows, which are designed to partially shield your spouse from Satan’s grasp, is a fairly large stumbling block, I think.

So, is refusing a sin?  Yeah, I’d say so.  Better a millstone and all that… but…

Your spouse’s sin doesn’t invalidate yours

Just because your spouse is sinning, does not mean that you sin is any less, or any more excusable, or can be rationalized away.  It’s lamentable, and it’s something we need to be compassionate about and understanding of, but not excusing.  Sin is sin.  “She made me do it” didn’t work in the garden, and it doesn’t work today (or visa-versa).  So, then, what can you do?

What are men in this situation to do?

It’s not just men.  There are women with the same struggle.  And you know what, it’s not just married men and women.  Singles have about the same struggle: fleeing sexual temptation without the benefit of a spouse to help keep them from it.  So, you do the same thing they would:

1) Grow your relationship with God

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

This answer can sound a little cliche, but nevertheless, it stands.  God can, and will, help you through whatever trials come your way, be they external or internal.  He never promises to save us from them, but rather that He will be there with us through them, and that His Will will be done by the end.  Sometimes that means you get to suffer so that you can help someone else later.  Sometimes it means you get to suffer so that you can learn to rely on Him.  It’s not that He wants you to suffer, but rather that, if you must go through it, He will put it to good use.

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

2) Practice self-control

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

Patience is a virtue, and self-control is part of the process is building perseverance, character and hope.  Just as many of us struggled to remain pure before weddings, the struggle within marriage is no less, particularly when your sexual needs are not being met by your spouse.  But, this gives you the opportunity to exercise your will.  For many, will won’t be enough, you may also need accountability.

3) Get an accountability partner

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16

Finding someone who will help keep you accountable, someone you can be vulnerable with, to share your struggles, to ask for prayer and seek guidance, who will keep you in check, firmly, but compassionately, can be extremely beneficial.  I have been blessed to be this accountability partner, for short terms while they find someone in their life to continue the role, with some of my coaching clients, and I can tell you, it works.  Sometimes just knowing someone is going to ask how you’re going with your struggles helps overcome them.  Sadly, our sense of shame and pride is stronger than our willpower, but, at times, we can use that to our advantage.  If you know someone is going to ask you how your porn addiction is going, I guarantee you will try harder to flee from temptation before your next meeting or call.

Who’s a good accountability partner?

  • Someone who has been in your struggle, but has overcome, or at least is overcoming it.  Do not partner with someone who is struggling in the same way you are at the same time.  That’s like two drowning men trying to save each other.  If possible, you want them to have gone through what you are going through, so they can offer practical advice, things that worked for them, and so they can be not only compassionate, sympathetic, but also empathetic about your struggle, because they’ve been where you are.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule.  If you can find someone suitably compassionate who can offer good advice, they may not necessarily need to have been in the same struggle.
  • It should not be your spouse, because it’s too easy to rationalize lying to your spouse in order to save them from being hurt.  Having a spouse as an accountability partner is great while you’re doing well.  But once you slip up, it’s brutal confessing it to them.  In fact, it’s so hard, that many lapse back into their immoral habits, and cover it up with lies on top.
  • It should be someone you trust, whom you can be brutally honest and open with.  This can be very difficult for men especially.  We’re not very good at being vulnerable, especially to other men.  For some, this means it shouldn’t be your pastor, because, well, some of you are too afraid of pastors to be honest with them.
  • It should be someone of your own gender, because this is going to become an intimate, vulnerable relationship.  It can be dangerous to have that with someone of the opposite gender.  Especially when you’re dealing with sexual sin.
  • Someone you know will make you a priority.  Sadly too many people get accountability partners who never follow through.  You need to be clear and upfront about what your expectations are, and be able and willing to call them on them.  If you need someone to check in with you weekly and you haven’t heard from your partner in a few weeks…it’s time for a talk.  If it keeps happening, it’s time to let them go, because they’re not prepared for this type of commitment.

That’s the best advice I can give.  But, if anyone is still struggling in this area, I offer my services as a Christian marriage coach.  I’ve helped couples and individuals deal with temptation in their life, deal with the fallout of confessing it, and work towards a better, more stable marriage moving forward.   The caveat is that my clients need to be invested in working on it.  If your spouse isn’t, then we’ll do individual coaching, but you can’t do marriage coaching when one spouse has been dragged in.  It never works.  But, I have seen individual spouses make amazing strides while patiently waiting for their spouses to be convicted, and ultimately helped their spouse meet that conviction by modeling their own growth.  In fact, half of my clients are individuals rather than couples, and I love working with each and every one of them.

If you want more information, you can check out Anonymous Marriage Coaching.

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12 thoughts on “How do I deal with temptation if my spouse is a sexual refuser?”

  1. Norah says:

    Jay you out did your self on this post. Very good biblical counseling. I will be praying with this husband. Maybe ask wifey to go to counseling. Also he didn’t say as to why her drive went away or did I miss that?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      He just said after the second child. Could be hormones, new-found pain during sex, exhaustion, postpartum depression, who knows.

      1. libl says:

        I read that sometimes it is very hard for a woman to start having sex again once she stops. At that point, I would say it is time to start the marriage over. Build friendship and goodwill again. Start dating. Get “engaged”, go to counseling, renew your vows, go on a honeymoon and have sex! The best part is if you slip up and have sex before your vow renewals, who cares? You are already married!!

      2. John says:

        Could be selfishness too

  2. Jimchristian says:

    One hopes that even if they now have “agreed” to have a platonic marriage that the husband doesn’t go outside the platonic boundaries (including porn and self-diddling, it costs a man his sexual energy better spent on his wife) and of course, that the wife not stray either. At this point, I worry about the kids and the possibility of a broken home. A sexless Christian, or any other marriage is sad I suppose, but is workable if it keeps the home together for the kids. The priority is to keep the home together, make nice, be husband and wife and by all means man, get in bed with your wife and try make her happy. But above all else, since the two of them have brought children into the world, they owe it to the children to raise them TOGETHER and not break the home. Am I out of line, Jay Dee? Thoughts?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Out of line? No, but I think missing a larger point. I would say that a husband and wife living together “for the kids” is still a broken home, even if it’s not as broken as on with a divorce. It still is going to damage the kids for the rest of their lives, because the model of healthy marriage and married sexuality is twisted and incomplete. Either the kids know, on some level, that marriage is a facade, and that damages them, or they don’t, and they grow up believing this is “normal” and bring that standard into their own marriages.

      I think if they’re going to bother taking the time to “stay together for the kids”, why not work together to have a good marriage, for the kids, for themselves, and to glorify God. Then they benefit as well as the children.

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  5. John says:

    The advice you give to people stranded in a sexless marriage is not for singles. The Bible says that the remedy for singles is to MARRY. (1 Corinthians 7:9). You may also recall that God said “It is not good for the man to be alone” in Genesis 2:18. He then made the man a wife. Please note that this was before sin and the fall, and the man had complete access to God with no separation! If “growing closer to God” is the answer to unfulfilled sexual desire, then why wouldn’t Adam have been just fine? Why are singles told to marry rather than try to handle sexual desires alone? While I appreciate your attempts to help, the truth is that a sexless marriage is not God’s design. The victim of a sexless marriage SUFFERS because of his or her spouses SIN. Dealing with this situation should be the same as with any other abuse or infidelity in marriage. Two options: abused spouse takes a stand and demands change or else leaves OR abused spouse suffers and looks to God to make it right. Which is the biblical response? Same for dealing with alcoholic? Physical abuse? No easy answers here, but we should not be squeamish about calling out persistent sexual refusal in marriage for what it is: SIN!!!

    1. Jay Dee says:

      “Go get married” is not quite a solution you can implement today. What do you do in the mean time while you are looking for a spouse?

      As for the rest. The purpose of this post is what to do about the temptation, not what to do about the sin of refusal (which I do label it as such in the post). I have many other posts that tell people to go to their church leaders and deal with the sin of refusal.

      1. John says:

        Yes, “go get married” doesn’t help with today’s temptation, but it does offer hope, which the person stranded in a sexless marriage doesn’t have.

        As for going to the church that doesn’t always work. Sometimes a spouse who has a deeply rooted and habitual sin, such as substance abuse, violence, or refusal, simply can’t or won’t repent. That puts the other spouse in a very tricky situation as to how to proceed. The Bible doesn’t spell it out in these situations like it does with “sexual immorality”. Sometimes we don’t have the answers. It’s ok to admit that and grieve with those who grieve and extend grace.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          Thus the “get closer to God” advice. That’s applicable in all situations, regardless of how other humans behave.

  6. John says:

    I agree with “get closer to God”. It is universally sound and wise advice that is applicable in every difficult situation. We agree 100%! My concern is when this advice is used to avoid dealing with a problem in society or the church. Imagine if this advice was given to slaves or abused women and then nothing was done to remedy the problem. Worse yet is if the fact is brought up that the Bible says slaves are to be subject to their masters and wives to their husbands. Presumably they are to suffer and not sin in these trying situations and grow closer to God. Honestly, when is the last time you heard of a church leader telling an abused wife to go back to her husband and grow closer to God? Doesn’t the book of James confront this issue? Faith without works… I’ve seen many Christians take such a wimpy stand in the issue of refusal in marriage, but I’m not saying you are doing that, of course. I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. You sound honest and compassionate.

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